On Working from Home

 Today, many people work from home, whether it’s on a full- or part-time basis.

When I first started working from an office in my house, more than 10 years ago, the practice wasn’t so common. I’d get a lot of questions from family, friends, and colleagues about it.

Do you really work? (Yes.) How do you get anything done? (I have a schedule and a routine, just like at any other job.) Aren’t you inclined to do other things? (Not really. I have deadlines and they have to be met.) How do you get yourself motivated? (I like what I do. I also have deadlines and contract agreements, not to mention bills to pay.)

These were the friendly inquiries. There were also jabs.

I bet you don’t really work. I bet you sit in front of the TV eating bonbons all day. (Someone actually said that to me.)

Today, a lot of the myths about working from home have been shattered simply because it’s more common. However, those who work from home, whether part time or full time, know it comes with challenges.

People often report they work more than they otherwise would simply because they can. And the flexibility they sought, well, in some ways that has turned out to be the biggest myth of all.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re self-employed or an employee, most likely you’re interacting with other people and, to some extent, you’re dependent on them and their schedules. It can require a lot of juggling, and this can mean putting your free time on hold.

Still, after more than a decade of working from a home office, I’ve learned a few things about making it work.

First, if possible, it helps to have space that you use only as an office.

Second, it is essential to schedule your day to the best of your ability. This means relying on Caller ID and/or an answering machine at times, and ignoring the doorbell, especially when you have a deadline.

Third, you should honor your personal appointments as you do your work commitments. For me, this means scheduling time for Pilates classes, which I view as essential to my health, well being, and overall productivity.

Finally, you have to accept the fact that some people are never going to get what working at home entails. I’ll share a recent personal experience that, after all these years, still served as an eye-opener.

A few months ago, a friend of a friend rang my doorbell. It turned out she was in the neighborhood and wanted to say hello. It was a particularly busy day and I wouldn’t have even answered the door, but I’d left a package on the porch for FedEx pickup and thought FedEx had a question.

When I saw this woman standing there I was surprised. I was even more surprised that she clearly expected to be invited in. I explained that I was in the middle of my workday and really couldn’t take a break. I thought I was polite and pleasant, going so far as to offer an explanation about my work and schedule. I later found out she thought I was rude and unfriendly.

What could I have done differently? In retrospect, the only thing might have been to make sure it was FedEx before answering the door. As others who work from home can confirm, it can be extremely disruptive to have to tear yourself away from the TV and that box of bonbons.

Paula Santonocito

Career Editor, SingleMindedWomen.com